Although I currently reside and work in Singapore, I’ve been fortunate to have lived in many different cities across the U.S. including Pittsburgh where I grew up, Gainesville, Florida where I went to college, New Orleans, Houston and San Francisco. I’ve also done a couple of 8-week summer work stints in both Amsterdam and Shanghai. Each place had its own unique topography, climate, culture and history. And, I’ve relished living in all of them, some maybe more than others. But, for me, it is the people that I have met and befriended in those cities that remain closest to my heart and have truly shaped who I am today.
I am waxing especially nostalgic right now, because I have had the opportunity this summer to visit with many of those people from my past. During this “Summer Tour of Ignorance” in the U.S., meeting with many new business acquaintances in the field of social enterprise, kids online games and edu-tech, I have also been able to catch up with friends and relatives, old and new, along the way.
In fact, I’m writing this now just getting back from breakfast in Chicago with one of my newer friends from Singapore. She is one of those people in my life that, although I’ve known for only less than a year, I feel like we’re old friends. She is an architect turned artist who moved from Chicago to Singapore last August and, I love that she always makes me think more deeply about things. In fact, it was she who, without even knowing it perhaps, helped me to recognize last Fall that my passion was in something that combined a commercial for-profit business model with social impact and creativity. It was an innocent discussion that she and I had after we both attended an art show in Singapore highlighting the horrific topic of sex trafficking in Asia. The evening included an artist panel discussion on the use of art to express political statements and impact change.
Although the panel discussions and topics were enlightening and highly cerebral, I could not help but thinking that it felt a bit elitist. How could it ever meet a broad enough audience to have the impact that it needed to have? My friend and I discussed this idea at length that evening. I truly appreciated her balanced artistic viewpoint. In the end, I concluded that everyone has different gifts and talents that they can bring to the table to effect the world in which we live in a way that they are connected or have strong feelings about. The real key, in my mind, is making the effort to use those talents to try to make a positive impact on our world, even when we aren’t completely sure what the “right way” might be. No one way is right or wrong. And, some contribute to it in a very direct, hands-on and specific way, while others contribute with broader strokes that cover a larger canvas. It was in that moment that I decided that it seemed “right” for me to do something in line with my commercial and creative talents and experience that could have a broader impact on ideals to which I felt most connected. Thus the birth of TOSO and my first investment in ShiftRunner.
I didn’t have it all figured out when I made that decision…and I still don’t. But, as I get more and more exposure through work and research and discussions with people of varying viewpoints, I learn and continue to shape my vision. And, I am certain that the effort is, at the very least, better than the alternative – complacency.